Volunteer Recognition: Be Sincere, Be Specific!

Now is the time (no, I’m not kidding…you did save some time somewhere between camps to plan for the next 4-H year, right?) to begin working on your volunteer management plans for next year. In light of this, over these next few weeks the blog will tackle multiple topics related to volunteer management- recruitment, training, recognition, etc.

Today we are going to kick things off discussing recognition.  We’ll get more into research and theory in later posts, but for now we are going to talk two recognition “rules” which should guide all of your efforts:

               Be SINCERE                Be SPECIFIC

Volunteer guru Susan J. Ellis recently shared two of her personal experiences related to recognition on her fabulous website- EnergizeInc.. See if you can determine what’s wrong in these scenarios:

I was the volunteer, arriving for an early morning meeting only to discover that I was the only committee member to show up. The reason for the low attendance was that a new, inexperienced staff member had simply left a series of voice mail messages with the other volunteers without confirming everyone’s availability.

Chagrined at this waste of my time, the employee and I discussed a few matters pertinent only to my assignment, then I headed out. As I waited for the elevator, the employee dashed out with an unwrapped cardboard box. Pressing it into my hand, she said: “We want you to know how much we appreciate your volunteer work. Here is some candy for you.”

BE SINCERE! How sincere did this situation seem?

I was a paid speaker at a conference. Immediately following my keynote presentation, the program chairwoman stepped up to the podium, flipped through a small pile of envelopes in her folder, and handed me the one with my name on it. Later I read the contents: a lovely, handwritten note from a volunteer telling me that my speech “was a highlight of the conference.”

BE SPECIFIC! It’s hard to specify what you gained from someone’s speech before you hear it!

Deeper conversation on research and motivational theories is coming soon, but for now remember the two biggest principles which frame all volunteer recognition (and recognition for youth as well) are:

Be SINCERE                Be SPECIFIC

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